bio·​mag·​ni·​fi·​ca·​tion ¦bī-(ˌ)ō-ˌmag-nə-fə-¦kā-shən How to pronounce biomagnification (audio)
: the process by which a compound (such as a pollutant or pesticide) increases its concentration in the tissues of organisms as it travels up the food chain
In a process known as biomagnification, fish accumulate mercury more rapidly than they excrete it, and every fish up the aquatic food chain contains more than the one it just ate.Bronwyn Garrity, Vogue, May 2009
biomagnify verb, transitive + intransitive
biomagnified; biomagnifying; biomagnifies
In addition, litter leaches toxins into the water and soil. These toxins can be biomagnified, meaning the pollutant is concentrated ten times with each step up in the food chain from plankton to humans. Jennifer Fankhauser, Kern Valley Sun (Lake Isabella, California), 1 Aug. 2012
Mercury is a persistent contaminant that biomagnifies up the food web, causing mortality, reproductive failure, and other health effects in predatory wildlife and humans … Daniel A. Cristol et al., Science, 18 Apr. 2008

Word History

First Known Use

1969, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of biomagnification was in 1969

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

Dictionary Entries Near biomagnification

Cite this Entry

“Biomagnification.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!